No. 9 Nittany Lions Boost Conference Record
Feb. 14, 2011
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
The No. 9 Nittany Lions hosted Rutgers-Newark on Friday night and topped the Scarlet Raiders three sets to one (25-19, 28-26, 29-31, 25-19). Penn State took the first two sets of the night, but dropped the third as the Scarlet Raiders came out with a vengeance after the first intermission. However the Nittany Lions held on to oust their EIVA opponent in the third set, and take the match.
Redshirt junior Joe Sunder led the team with 17 kills and led the offense to an average of .322 hitting. Sophomore Nick Turko followed with 13 kills of his own while freshman Peter Russell saw time on the court and added another ten successful swings.
The Nittany Lions' defensive play was what helped them edge the Scarlet Raiders however, as Turko was all over the net with four huge blocks and Sunder took care of business in his service game with three aces. Redshirt junior Edgardo Goas made sure that Penn State kept control as he guided his teammates with 53 assists on the night.
Penn State handed the Scarlet Raiders their first loss of the season, as the team was 8-0 overall before it traveled to University Park.
On Saturday night, the Nittany Lions mixed things up a bit against the Princeton Tigers. To start the match, Sunder, Goas, Turko, Russell, sophomore Tom Comfort, sophomore Ian Hendries and senior Dennis Del Valle stepped onto the floor. As Penn State dominated and swept the opposing Tigers three sets to none (25-17, 25-16, 25-23), head coach Mark Pavlik began to rotate in almost all of the remaining players on his bench.
Fourteen of the seventeen Nittany Lions saw action on Saturday night, and each one made their time well worth it. Comfort had a big weekend in the Rec Hall South Gym and led the Nittany Lions against Princeton with 12 kills. Comfort was also a force to be reckoned with behind the service line, recording three service aces. Russell followed behind Comfort with eight of his own kills and Turko seemed unstoppable at the net as he tallied six kills on just six big swings.
Goas controlled the offense for the first set of the match and dished out 21 assists to his fellow Nittany Lions but junior Tor Covello stepped in for the final two sets of the match and got in 18 assists as well. No. 9 Penn State dealt the Tigers their sixth loss of the season, and improved to 9-3 overall this season. After a winning weekend, Penn State is 4-0 in conference play. Pavlik said that he was satisfied with the way that his team presented itself and happy to pick up two more conference wins.
"I really like the way we handled ourselves today," said Pavlik. "We did what we had to do and we kept doing it and it gave us an opportunity to get some other guys into some pressures situations and for the most part love the way they responded. So we never let up, I think it was a pretty good weekend for us."
With so many new faces of the Penn State team seeing time on the court, Pavlik said that he was especially content with the depth of his bench. Comfort, one of those who saw more time than usual this weekend, said that being able to get playing time against conference opponents is always helpful.
"[Seeing time] was just a really good confidence booster for me," said Comfort. "Obviously I haven't really been putting that much out on the table for our team, kind of getting a lot of errors so tonight it was a really big relief to actually hit the ball and have it bounce for once so, it was fun."
Covello agreed with Comfort and said that thanks to the strong bond that the Nittany Lions have, he has always been confident that any one of his teammates would be successful.
"I feel like I can gel well with pretty much anyone on the team," said Covello. "We have a lot of good team chemistry so it's nice to get out there on the court and just have some fun but it was a good overall effort. It's still a work in progress I guess with this team but we have a bright future."
Pavlik said that after this weekend, he is even more eager to continue playing knowing that he has even more talent to work with and feature this season. Join the Nittany Lions next Friday, February 18 at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall as they face the Mount Olive Trojans.